Tufted capuchin

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Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cebidae
Subfamily: Cebinae
Genus: Cebus
Species: C. apella
Subspecies: C. a. apella, C. a. fatuellus, C. a. macrocephalus, C. a. margaritae, C. a. peruanus, C. a. tocantinus

Other names: black-capped capuchin, brown capuchin, Guianan brown capuchin, tufted capuchin; gekuifde kapucijnaap (Dutch); sajon apelle (French); macaco prego (Spanish); tjockhuvudtamarin, brun kapucin, gulbröstad kapucin, mösskapucin (Swedish); C. a. apella: mono capuchin pardo (Spanish).

The taxonomy of the tufted capuchin is debated. Some researchers list certain types as subspecies while others elevate the same types to full species level (see Rylands et al. 2005). Groves lists six subspecies: C. a. apella, C. a. fatuellus, C. a. margaritae, C. a. macrocephalus, C. a. peruanus and C. a. tocantinus. He lists C. libidinosus, C. nigritus, and C. xanthosternos as discrete species, although some researchers place these as subspecies of C. apella (Groves 2001).

Conservation status: please search the IUCN Red List.

Life span: 45 years (captive)
Total population: Unknown
Regions: Neotropical South America
Gestation: 153 days (5 months)
Height: 444 mm (M), 390 mm (F)
Weight: 3.65 kg (M), 2.52 kg (F)


tufted capuchin monkey
Cebus apella

The brown or tufted capuchin is recognized by its characteristic head coloration, a black or dark brown cap with dark sideburns. On either side of the dark cap on the head there are tufts of dark fur above the ears. The shoulders are paler than the back which ranges from shades of yellow to red-brown, darkest in the middle of the back. Its legs, hands, and tail are darker than the rest of its pelage. The face can range from brown to pink (Groves 2001). There is significant variation in face color among even members of the same group but adult males tend to be darker in color than females (Emmons & Freer 1997). Sexual dimorphism is seen in the wild tufted capuchin with males averaging 3.650 kg (8.05 lb) and females averaging 2.520 kg (5.56 lb) (Fleagle 1999). Sexual dimorphism is also exhibited in canine size with males possessing larger canines than females (Kay et al 1988; Masterson 2003). In captivity, tufted capuchins are significantly heavier, with males averaging 6.089 kg (13.42 lb) and females averaging 3.19 kg (7.03 lb) in an extreme example (Leigh 1994). Head and body length is 444 mm (17.48 in) for males and 390 mm (15.35 in) for females. The tail is about as long as the rest of the body (Napier 1976). In a captive case of extreme longevity, a tufted capuchin male lived until he was at least 45 years old (Hakeem et al. 1996).

Locomotion is principally quadrupedal and while traveling, the prehensile tail is not typically used and is curved down behind the body. The tail is mainly used during feeding and foraging and serves as a brake while descending (Youlatos 1999). The tail helps to control risky movements, assist in changes in direction and to stabilize the capuchin while feeding in its characteristic seated posture. The tufted capuchin normally moves on branches and twigs and suspensory postures are rare (Fleagle & Mittermeier 1980; Youlatos 1999).


Cebus apella

The tufted capuchin is only found in South America, in the countries of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, French Guiana, Suriname, Guiana, and Venezuela (Fragaszy et al. 2004). The Margarita island tufted capuchin (C. a. margaritae) is isolated from the rest of the population off of the north coast of Venezuela and is separated from the nearest mainland population by around 800 km (Groves 2001; reviewed in Fragaszy et al. 2004). This population presumably has been on the island since the pre-Columbian era but, ultimately, its origin is unknown (Groves 2001). The heart of the range of the tufted capuchin is the northwestern half of Brazil and the Amazon basin. It is found in western Amazonia, and in the middle and lower Rio Amazonas and the Guianas. Its northern limit extends up to Venezuela as far as the Federal Territory of Amazonas and is limited by savannahs. The west of the tufted capuchin range extends into the Columbian Amazon and as far as the eastern foothills of the Andes mountain chain south into Peru. The southern limit in Brazil appears to be limited by the bush savannah of central Brazil. Eastern extremes of the range may extend past the Rio Xingu but there is some dispute as to the limits of the range (Rylands et al. 2005). The tufted capuchin has the largest range of all of the New World primates (Freese & Oppenheimer 1981).

Tufted capuchins were studied for over ten years at La Macarena, Colombia by Kosei Izawa starting in 1986 (Izawa 1988). Other prominent studies include those in Peru by Charles Janson.


The genus Cebus as a whole inhabits almost every type of forest in the neotropics. The same can be said about the tufted capuchin which can live in many different habitats as well (Mittermeier & van Roosmalen 1981). It can live within a wide variety of wooded habitats and is regarded as being considerably adaptable. In Suriname, it lives in at least five different forest types, including high rain forest, low rain forest, mountain savanna forest, liane forest, and pina swamp forest (Mittermeier & van Roosmalen 1981; see Zhang 1995a). In general, habitats in which tufted capuchins are found include rain forest, southern forest, mora forest, premontane forest, lower montane forest, wallaba forest, kanuku forest, southeast seasonal forest, swamp forest, and low seasonal forest (Lehman 2004). They are also found in a range of different edge habitats. Within different forest types, the monkeys typically remain within the understory and lower and middle canopy (Mittermeier & van Roosmalen 1981).

Near the eastern end of the tufted capuchin range in French Guiana, the climate has an annual dry season from August to November and a long rainy season punctuated in February and March by a short dry spell. Annual precipitation averages 3000 mm (118.11 in) and temperatures range from 22.0°C (71.6°F) to 31.2°C (88.16°F) (Zhang 1995a). In the middle of the tufted capuchin range, near Manaus, Brazil in dense terra firma forest, mean average rainfall is 2,673 mm (105.24 in). This area exhibits a wet season from December to May and a dry season during the rest of the year. Temperatures can range from 21°C (69.8°F) to 33.5°C (92.3°F) at this locale (Spironello 2001). Near the western extreme of the tufted capuchin range in moist tropical forest in southeastern Peru, the dry season ranges from June to October and rainfall averages around 2000 mm (78.74 in) with an average temperature of 24.1°C (75.38°F) (Janson 1985).

The altitude at which tufted capuchins are found also can vary considerably with the species having been seen as high as 2350 m (7709.97 ft) in the Peruvian highlands (Butchart et al. 1995).


The omnivorous tufted capuchin is able to exploit a wide range of food resources, including many not used by other neotropical primates, a fact that permits its widespread distribution (Brown & Zunino 1990). As would be expected in such a large range, foods exploited by tufted capuchins vary widely with habitat as well as with the seasons. In general, the tufted capuchin diet contains fruits, insects, leaves, nectar, nuts, and pith, the relative proportions of which in the diet vary considerably with the seasons (Terborgh 1983; Spironello 2001). In Suriname, the tufted capuchin eats mainly insects and fruits supplemented by seeds, flowers, and leaves (Mittermeier & van Roosmalen 1981). Elsewhere in Amazonia, the diet of the tufted capuchin was 82% plants and 18% animal matter. A larger number of different species of plant are used during the wet season than are used in the dry season (Spironello 2001). In the dry season, when food is often scarce, the tufted capuchin relies on palm nuts and pith for nourishment as this resource is readily available in an otherwise lean resource season. In the wet season however, the reliance on palm is curtailed as other food resources are available (Terborgh 1983). Animal prey of the tufted capuchin includes a large variety of insects in addition to vertebrates such as frogs, lizards and birds (Terborgh 1983). In addition to other vertebrates, the tufted capuchin is a confirmed predator of titi monkeys (Callicebus moloch) having been observed killing and consuming an infant (Sampaio & Ferrari 2005).

The main activity of tufted capuchins over the course of the daily activity period is feeding (Izawa 1980). On a daily basis, the diurnal tufted capuchin will divide its time into 12% rest, 21% travel and 66% feeding (Terborgh 1983). Time spent in different daily activities varies with the seasons and locality and foraging time can range between January and May from 2% of daily activity to 37.1%. Movement can range from 35.2% to 23.6% of time spent daily (Zhang 1995a). Tufted capuchins rest more and travel less with a greater availability of fruits and other food resources in the wet season. Tufted capuchin foraging for insects increases in the dry season, presumably due to the lack of available fruit resources (Terborgh 1983).

tufted capuchin monkey foraging
Cebus apella

Tufted capuchins spend the night in tall trees, chosen for their security, comfort level, and appropriateness for social contact (Zhang 1995b). Sleeping trees must be tall to prevent access from terrestrial predators, they must be comfortable, and the leaves of the tree must be large enough for more than one individual to sleep side by side, although tufted capuchins will also sleep alone. In French Guiana, the preferred tree is the Patawa palm, but in other habitats any tree that is tall enough and appropriate enough will be used (Zhang 1995b). Typically the sleeping site will be located near the center of the group’s home range but tends to be the appropriate site closest to where they were last foraging rather than a specific preferred site (Zhang 1995b; DiBitetti et al. 2000). The sleeping site changes frequently, but a single site can be reused (Zhang 1995b).

Average home range size of the tufted capuchin can reach as high as 8-9 km² (3.1-3.5 mi²) (Spironello 2001). Like other aspects of capuchin ecology however, this value can vary significantly with habitat, with some groups elsewhere having a home range of significantly smaller at around 2.6 km² (1 mi²) to1.25 km² (.48 mi²), and can be as low as to .5 km² to .7 km² (.19 to .27 mi²) (Izawa 1980; Terborgh & Janson 1983; Janson in prep. cited in Robinson & Janson 1986). Average daily path for a tufted capuchin is around 2.1 km (1.3 mi) (Janson in prep. cited in Robinson & Janson 1986).

Tufted capuchins usually live in sympatry with other primates and it is rare to find them as the only primate species in their habitats (Fragaszy et al. 2004). Examples of species which they live with include sakis (Pithecia sp.), spider monkeys (Ateles sp.), howler monkeys (Alouatta sp.), squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sp.), and tamarins (Saguinus sp.) (Fragaszy et al. 2004). In fact, the species occurs in over half of the primate communities in the neotropics (Peres & Janson 1999). Tufted capuchins can also be found living in the same habitat with both C. albifrons and C. olivaceous, a rare situation as it is uncommon for members of the same primate genus to live in the same habitat (Fragaszy et al. 2004).

The main predator of the tufted capuchin is the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), which has been seen attacking capuchins in several locales (Rettig 1978; Terborgh 1983; van Schaik & van Noordwijk 1989). Other potential predators include jaguars, pumas, jaguarundis, coyotes, tayras, snakes and crocodiles, although these are not confirmed (Fragaszy et al. 2004).

Wild tufted capuchins are capable of using tools to open up otherwise inaccessible fruits, the husks of which it cannot open in its teeth or jaws. It opens fruits by smashing them on tree surfaces or by using baton-like branch pieces to open the fruit. Immature tufted capuchins have been observed attempting to mimic the behavior of adults but they often fail (Boinski et al. 2000).

Content last modified: April 17, 2009

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Gary Linn.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2009 April 17. Primate Factsheets: Tufted capuchin (Cebus apella) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology .  Accessed 2020 July 8.


Tufted capuchin social organization is characterized by discrete hierarchies of rank between both sexes and different age classes (Izawa 1980). Both male and female rank hierarchies are correlated with age, with the older individuals typically being higher ranked than younger individuals (Izawa 1980). Tufted capuchin groups are often small, numbering in the teens or lower twenties with only one to several adult males and around the same number of adult females (Izawa 1980; Defler 1982). It is suggested that when troop size approaches around twenty individuals, the chances of group fission increase and such fission limits group size (Izawa 1994). There is some evidence that tufted capuchin society might be matrilineal, as matrilines remain together when group fission occurs (Izawa 1994). Tufted capuchin group home ranges can overlap, often with the ranges of more than two groups overlapping the same area (Spironello 2001). This common territory is the result of the lack of territorial defense by a single tufted capuchin group (Defler 1982). When different groups encounter one another, interactions range from peaceful curiosity and tolerance of the other group to active chasing away by adult males (Defler 1982; Spironello 2001).

tufted capuchin monkey sitting on branch
Cebus apella

The alpha male dictates group movement and activity patterns, is the focal point of group attention and functions in group cohesion (Izawa 1980). With the exception of young males, who often transfer between groups several times before settling into a new troop, group membership is stable over a number of years (Janson 1990a). The tufted capuchin dominance hierarchy serves to regulate social spacing during group foraging and thus is reflected in access to high-quality foods. Higher-ranking individuals are better placed during social foraging to attain the best and largest amounts of resources while lower-ranking individuals are marginalized (Janson 1990b). Females usually stay within their natal group excepting the occasional adult female who may migrate between troops (Janson 1990a). The earliest age at which a male emigrates from his natal group is at 6 years of age (Janson unpub. data cited in Robinson & Janson 1986).

Adult tufted capuchin males are more likely to exhibit anti-predator vigilance to protect other age and sex classes from threats and are also far better than the other classes at detecting potential threats (van Schaik & van Noordwijk 1989). Lower-ranking males tend to avoid higher-ranking males in day-to-day activities but there are strong bonds between different males nevertheless (Izawa 1980; Janson 1984). Agonistic behavior between females is seen far more than in males, probably because females do not actively avoid higher-ranking females (Izawa 1980).

Changes in the alpha male dominance hierarchy of tufted capuchin males are rarely reported (Moura 1999). In several instances in the wild however, changes in the alpha male occurred as a result of instability developing in social relationships between individuals. That is, either an infant grew large enough to threaten a previously larger individual or injuries were sustained by an individual and this caused instability in the social structure (Izawa 1990, 1997; Moura 1999). Such instability causes fighting in which serious injuries can be sustained and in which the dominance hierarchy can change (Izawa 1997; Moura 1999).

Allogrooming among female tufted capuchins in captivity shows several trends that lend insight into social relationships within a troop. Further research is needed into the meanings of these trends however, before conclusions can be drawn as to their meanings. First, individuals tend to groom down the hierarchy, that is, higher-ranking individuals tend to groom those of lower rank than those of equal or higher rank. Second, the higher the female’s rank, the more grooming she is likely to perform and the more grooming she is likely to receive (Linn et al. 1995; Parr et al. 1997). Finally, the dominant individual was the only rank which performed grooming on others more than receiving grooming (Parr et al. 1997). High rank females are more likely than lower rank females to groom or be groomed by males and this is reflected in the amount of time they spend in close proximity to them (Linn et al. 1995).


The tufted capuchin mating system is difficult to classify as it is multi-male/multi-female the majority of the time but can also be single-male. That is, often most males can potentially mate with most females, but under certain conditions only the alpha male will mate (Carosi et al. 2005). Perhaps the most characteristic aspect of the tufted capuchin mating system is the active female solicitation of the alpha male and female choice of mate. Males solicit mating far less often then do the female tufted capuchins and seem to respond to female solicitation rather than to initiate it (Welker et al. 1990). Female behavior is the only indication of estrus, as there are no external clues or genital swelling which might indicate an estrous state (Carosi et al. 2005). Estrus lasts from one to eight days but typically lasts around five days (Janson 1984; Phillips et al. 1994). In addition, estrus does not show any strict seasonality although it is more common in some times of the year than others and conceptions are somewhat synchronous among females (Janson 1984). Birth season varies by locale and reflects the differential rainfall, food availability and photoperiod of the habitat (Carosi et al. 2005).

Female tufted capuchin behavior changes noticeably during estrus and they become skittish, with consistent grimacing and characteristic estrus vocalizations resembling a whistle or a whine. In addition, during the first several days of estrus, the alpha female will approach and follow the alpha male and constantly and actively solicit him. These solicitations are similar to overall estrus behavior and take the form of vocalizations, distinctive submissive postures, grimaces, and rapid touching and fleeing (Janson 1984). The alpha male’s response is initially indifferent and deterrent but after several days he becomes receptive and copulations, up to one per day, will occur (Janson 1984; Carosi et al. 2005). Sexual solicitation by females of alpha males is extremely adaptable, changing focus almost immediately when a formerly subordinate male attains alpha status (Carosi et al. 2005). In other words, when a male attains alpha status, females will immediately start soliciting him when they previously ignored him due to his subordinate status. Toward the end of estrus, females will stop soliciting and mating with the alpha male and will mate with several other lesser-ranked group males in a short period of time (Janson 1984). Copulations involving an alpha male will typically last much longer than those involving subordinate males (Janson 1984).

There are conflicting reports regarding male-male or female-female aggression during tufted capuchin mating behavior. While some researchers have observed little aggression during matings, others have reported aggressive interference of copulations of lower ranking individuals by both males and females (Janson 1984; Phillips et al. 1994; Linn et al. 1995). These differences may reflect differences in the group size, age-sex composition and degree of relatedness among group members. Subordinate male sexual behavior may also be inhibited in the presence of dominant males, at least during the middle days of female estrus (Linn et al. 1995; Visalberghi & Moltedo 2001). This inhibition and active solicitation of males by females may account for the generally lower levels of aggression than is seen in other species with multimale/multifemale breedings systems (Carosi et al. 2005).

Female solicitation postures can take several forms including the female facing the male, grimacing at him, and spreading her thighs or the second posture which has her facing away from the male and looking back over her shoulder at him. Following this posturing, copulation will occur and can last up to four minutes (Janson 1984). Post copulation, a sperm-plug is formed which may serve as a means for a male tufted capuchin to increase his chances of producing offspring (Carosi et al. 2005).

tufted capuchin monkey sitting on branch
Cebus apella

The menstrual cycle in the captive tufted capuchin female averages 20.8 days (Nagle & Denari 1983). Average gestation in captivity is 153 days (5 mos) but can range from 149-158 days (4.9-5.2 mos) (Wright & Bush 1977). In the wild, females attain reproductive maturity at around four years of age but in captivity this number is around five years (Fragaszy & Adams-Curtis 1998; Carosi et al. 2005). Male reproductive maturity has not been ascertained in the wild but in captivity, males are fertile by about four and a half years of age (Fragaszy & Adams-Curtis 1998; Carosi et al. 2005).


The average weight of a captive tufted capuchin at birth is 210 g (7.4 oz) (Fragaszy & Adams-Curtis 1998). At birth and for the subsequent three weeks in the wild, the infant will cling dorsally to its mother and not move independently (Calle 1990). In addition, for the first two weeks of life in the wild, the majority of the mother’s resting time is spent suckling and grooming the infant (Calle 1990). Transportation in the first month is provided by the mother, who also provides food for the infant for the first two months (Valenzuela 1994). After the fourth week of life, 20-70% of the infant’s time is spent with alloparents of all demographics which is an indicator of strong group cohesion (Valenzuela 1994). Carrying by other group members occurs predominantly while the mother feeds and while the group is moving (Escobar-Páramo 1989). By the third month, infants move independently except in situations in which the group must move very quickly (Valenzuela 1994). As wild infant capuchins gain independence and are capable of solitary movement, they typically gravitate toward and stay near the alpha male (Escobar-Páramo 1989). Their affiliative bond of the infant with the alpha male is stronger and more evident than with subordinate group males (Calle 1990).

At around nine months, infant facial coloration lightens above the eyebrows. In addition, contrasts in pelage color become more profound between the shoulders and the rest of the body (Escobar-Páramo 1989). Because females produce offspring only about once every two years, it is assumed that complete weaning takes place into the second year as having a dependent infant precludes reproduction at the one year mark (Robinson & Janson 1989). Wild weaning has been estimated at around 16.5 months and captive weaning at 13.7 months (Fragaszy & Adams-Curtis 1997).

While development in captivity is better recorded than in the wild, it is suggested that infant development in wild populations of tufted capuchins is faster than of those in captivity because of the difficulties of a wild existence versus a captive one (Valenzuela 1994). Up until the fifth week of life, sleep predominates in the daily activity of the captive infant tufted capuchin (Byrne & Suomi 1995). In captivity, infants begin to explore their surroundings between three and eight weeks of age (Byrne & Suomi 1995). In addition, an infant will constantly remain in contact with its mother until the second or third month of life (Byrne & Suomi 1998). From two to six months of age, the proportion of time spent alone grows as time spent with the mother decreases and by six to seven months more time is spent alone than with the mother (Byrne & Suomi 1995). Captive allomothering commences in the eighth week of life (Fragaszy et al. 1991). After the third month of life, adult males in captivity are also approached preferentially by infant capuchins with the male being approached more often than all the females combined save for the mother (Fragaszy et al. 1991). Social play is first seen after 14 weeks of life between the infant capuchin and other infants, juveniles and adults, particularly the adult males (Fragaszy et al. 1991). By one year of age, fine motor control is almost completely developed at the adult level and by 15 months of age, truly independent foraging is seen (Fragaszy & Adams-Curtis 1997).


Vocal communication in the captive tufted capuchin consists of several calls which serve specific purposes. Contact calls are either the “mik” or “ik” vocalizations and to reestablish contact with the group when separated, a “fueh” call is given. Warning and alarm vocalizations include “e-c-k-g,” “i-tsch-g-k,” and “ik-a” sounds. Upon utterance of alarm vocalizations, the entire troop will flee. The four to five second “p-ru-pju-uiu-uiu-uiu-u” call is possibly given to signal intent to establish a new group as only females responded to this call uttered by a male who was separated from the group (Dobroruka 1972).


tufted capuchin monkey
Cebus apella

Urine washing and chest rubbing are several types of olfactory communication exhibited by the tufted capuchin. Both of these behaviors could be scent-marking behaviors. Urine-washing consists of an individual urinating upon its extremities and rubbing them against one another. There is no evidence of urine-washing serving any purpose in reproductive communication (Carosi et al. 2005). However, tufted capuchins can discriminate between groups and recognize their species versus another based on the differential odor created by urine-washing (Ueno 1991; 1994). This, coupled with evidence of differential responses to scent by sex, indicates that there is some sort of socially communicative role played by urine-washing (Ueno 1994).

There is a gland on the chest of the male tufted capuchin which plays a role in scent-marking (Epple & Lorenz 1967). The dominant captive male is observed to use this gland, rubbing it on a substrate to scent-mark it while other age and sex classes rarely, if ever, show this behavior. Urine marking is also seen in captivity in which males and females mark specific surfaces in their cages (Dobroruka 1972).

Captive tufted capuchins have a repertoire of 7 discrete facial displays; relaxed open-mouth, silent bared-teeth, open-mouth threat, lip-smacking, open-mouth silent bared-teeth, protruded lip, and scalp lifting. Of the facial expressions, the silent bared-teeth and relaxed open-mouth display are the most common. The silent bared-teeth display is used in affiliative or positive interactions with higher ranking individuals and in play and courtship with other group members (Visalberghi et al. 2006). The relaxed open mouth display signals non-aggression and is commonly used in play. Scalp lifting accompanies other facial expressions and serves to accentuate the meaning of the other display in addition to being possibly an affliative expression (Weigel 1979; Visalberghi et al. 2006). Lip-smacking signals reassurance to other tufted capuchins (Weigel 1979).

A characteristic display of the tufted capuchin is the male reunion display. When separated for a time, males will approach one another quickly, embrace, and loudly vocalize (Matheson et al. 1996; Phillips et al. 2005). This behavior is not observed in females nor is it aggressive in nature (Matheson et al. 1996). Such reunion displays have been observed between adult males and between adult males and infant males and serve to reinforce affinitive relations and bonds between tufted capuchin males (Matheson et al. 1996; Phillips et al. 2005). Other displays include the oblique head tilt in which a capuchin will move its head side-to-side to gain the attention of another capuchin and the penile display where a male will stand bipedally in front of a female and display his genitals (Weigel 1979). Both sexes of brown capuchin will wag their tails when extremely excited (Dobroruka 1972).

Content last modified: April 17, 2009

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Gary Linn.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2009 April 17. Primate Factsheets: Tufted capuchin (Cebus apella) Behavior . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/tufted_capuchin/behav>. Accessed 2020 July 8.


For individual primate species conservation status, please search the IUCN Red List.
Also search the current scientific literature for primate conservation status (overall as well as for individual species), and visit CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Conservation information last updated in 2009 follows, for comparison:

tufted capuchin monkey in tree
Cebus apella

Luckily, due to widespread occurrence, the tufted capuchin still maintains an extensive distribution and habitat. As with other primates, the biggest threat to the tufted capuchin is habitat loss and fragmentation. It is estimated that more than a fifth of the entire Amazonian forest, the habitat of the tufted capuchin, has been destroyed (Fragaszy et al. 2004). Reasons for destruction of the forest are varied, but include logging, agriculture and flooding for hydroelectric power generation (Fragaszy et al. 2004). It is estimated that the minimum contiguous forest area required to sustain a group of tufted capuchins is around 100 ha but ideally the minimum is 1000 ha (Gilbert & Setz 2001). This area is likely larger in poorer soil areas of the central Amazon and the minimum required habitat size in the central Amazonian terra firma forests is likely around 23000 ha (Spironello 2001). Recently, infrastructure development and road building plans in the Amazon have further expanded the potential for deforestation in some areas of the tufted capuchin range as access will increase and economic development will expand (da Silva et al. 2005). A regional system of protected areas is needed in Amazonia if unfettered development is to be checked (da Silva et al. 2005).

The Margarita Island tufted capuchin, in addition to facing the same threats as the mainland populations, has far fewer numbers and is critically endangered. Recently, an additional threat to its numbers has been identified in escaped or released pet wedge-capped capuchins (Cebus olivaceus) which have the potential to establish feral populations which compete for the same resources as the tufted capuchins (Martinez et al. 2000).


Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

Hunting for food and as a crop pest of the tufted capuchin is also a significant threat to its numbers. Fragmentation of tufted capuchin habitat also serves to bring the species into further contact with people causing crop-raiding conflict as well as facilitating hunting access (Fragaszy et al. 2004). In one instance, a village of indigenous Brazilians killed and consumed over two hundred tufted capuchins in under a year (Nascimento & Peres cited in Chapman & Peres 2001).





Content last modified: April 17, 2009

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Gary Linn.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2009 April 17. Primate Factsheets: Tufted capuchin (Cebus apella) Conservation . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/tufted_capuchin/cons>. Accessed 2020 July 8.

The following references were used in the writing of this factsheet. To find current references for Cebus apella, search PrimateLit.


Boinski S, Quatrone RP, Swartz H. 2000. Substrate and tool use by brown capuchins in Suriname: ecological contexts and cognitive bases. Am Anth 102(4):741-61.

Butchart SHM, Barnes R, Davies CWN, Fernandez M, Seddon N. 1995. Observations of two threatened primates in the Peruvian andes. Prim Conserv 16:15-9.

Byrne G, Suomi SJ. 1995. Development of activity patterns, social interactions, and exploratory behavior in infant tufted capuchins (Cebus apella). Am J Primatol 35(4):255-270.

tufted capuchin monkey in tree
Cebus apella

Byrne G, Suomi SJ. 1998. Relationship of early infant state measures to behavior over the first year of life in the tufted capuchin monkey (Cebus apella). Am J Primatol 44(1):43-56.

Calle Z. 1990. A field observation of infant development and social interactions of a wild black-capped capuchin (Cebus apella) female and infant at La Macarena (Colombia). Field Studies of New World Monkeys, La Macarena, Colombia, Vol. 4:1-8.

Carosi M, Linn GS, Visalberghi E. 2005. The sexual behavior and breeding system of tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella). Adv Stud Behav 35:105-49.

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